Our City, Our Vote legislation grants local voting rights in municipal elections to lawful permanent residents and persons authorized to work
New York — Today, members of the Our City, Our Vote Coalition, interveners in the case, and elected officials rallied outside of NYS Supreme Court, Appellate Division ahead of oral arguments in the case Fossella v. New York City, which will decide on the ability of the city’s permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.
Local Law 11, which was approved in December 2021, is a historic measure that enshrined the right of over one million New Yorkers to more fully participate in decisions about the communities where they live, work and raise their families. Specifically, the law allows lawful permanent residents and persons authorized to work in the United States to vote in local municipal elections.
Soon after Local Law 11 was passed, a group of Republican voters, elected officials and party representatives filed suit in the Richmond County Supreme Court in Staten Island to stop the law from being enacted. The judge in the case ruled to invalidate the law, immediately disenfranchising nearly one million New Yorkers.
Today’s rally included representatives from the legal team, interveners in the case, immigrant advocates, directly impacted individuals, as well as elected officials and other supporters, calling on court officials to protect democracy and allow Local Law 11 to go into effect.
“The successful Republican effort to overturn ‘Our City, Our Vote’ is a shameful chapter in our City’s history. But today’s appeal is how we correct course and ensure at a time when democracy is under assault across our country, New York City is strengthening it,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, Immigration Committee Chair, District 39. “The decision to overturn OCOV was misguided and founded in xenophobia. I’m proud to offer my support to the broad coalition fighting for this bill to ensure our City is strengthening the right to vote and deepening the roots of our democracy.”
“Right now, registered voters are participating in early voting and making their voices heard in local government. The nearly one million New Yorkers who live and work here legally should be joining them, and also have a say in the people and policies that make important decisions that affect them and their families ,” said Council Member Sandra Ung, Governmental Operations Committee Chair, District 20. “These are our neighbors, who support our city through their tax dollars. When a Staten Island judge overturned Local Law 11 and municipal voting, he was essentially saying they have no voice in how their kids are schooled or the parks in their neighborhoods are maintained. I am fully behind the appeal of this decision, and confident that when the case is heard again, the legality of municipal voting will be upheld.”
“The contributions of Immigrants to the economic, social, and cultural vitality of New York City is invaluable. Despite this, many immigrants in our city cannot participate in the civic processes that shape their daily lives. Local Law 11 rightfully, and legally, ensures that nearly 1 million New Yorkers who are building their lives here and investing in our communities can have a say in their local democracy. It’s long overdue that all New Yorkers who live here, pay taxes, send their kids to school, finally have a say in what happens in their city and neighborhoods, enshrining New York City’s commitment to democracy and equity," said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
“We all benefit when everyone participates in local government,” said Susan Stamler, Executive Director, United Neighborhood Houses (UNH). “The more opportunities that exist to bring eligible voters into the system, the stronger our democracy grows. UNH fought for Local Law 11-2022 (the Our City, Our Vote law) because it will be transformational for the communities that settlement houses serve, opening the door for our neighbors who live and pay taxes here to shape how our city functions. As the City conducts its early voting process, we are reflecting on the 800,000 New York City residents who are disenfranchised in this election due to this legal challenge. We look forward to the appellate division upholding this law so we can get back to work with voter education and registration for future elections."
“Immigrants are the cornerstone of New York City, yet they are being prevented from participating in the most fundamental process of our democracy, voting,” said Fulvia Vargas-De Leon, Senior Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and one of the lawyers representing the case. "This case is about a group of New Yorkers who live, work, and form a significant part of the NYC community yet have no say in the politics that govern them. LatinoJustice and our clients remain firm in our commitment to protecting and advancing our communities' voting rights. We call on the Court to find that the law is constitutional and allow for NYC to truly have a representative democracy.”
“The Our City Our Vote legislation extends the right to vote in municipal elections to immigrant New Yorkers and epitomizes the spirit of our democracy. Immigrants are deeply woven into the social fabric of New York City and deserve a voice in choosing their representatives at City Hall. In an era where certain elected officials seek to place barriers on the right to vote, CAIR-NY is proud to champion a law that promotes greater democratic participation in our city,” said Ahmed Mohamed, Legal Director, CAIR-NY.
“As an organization who works to increase civic engagement and participation from our community, we believe that Local Law 11 will let us have greater voice in how government works for us by giving legal residents the right to vote in local elections. We urge the court to reinstate Local Law 11,” said Mae Lee, Executive Director, Chinese Progressive Association.
“Municipalities, like New York City, should have total control over how they run elections — including who votes in them. Common Cause/NY is proud to have submitted an amicus brief in support of Our City, Our Voice, and we’re confident the court will side with democracy," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director, Common Cause New York.
“Noncitizen voting was passed into law in 2021, now two years later, we’re in another municipal election cycle. People that have lived here, worked here, followed the rules, and paid their taxes once again cannot have a say in their day-to-day life and who represents them. Either we want to expand voting rights in our city or suppress them,” said Bertha Lewis, Founder and President, The Black Institute.
"The immigrant community has been on the front lines every time there is a crisis and has contributed so much to the NYC economy, including in Staten Island. Citizenship should not be put as a barrier to shut the voices of the community,” said Yesenia Mata, Executive Director, La Colmena.
“MinKwon Center for Community Action stands with our undocumented community members. Local Law 11 is crucial in providing a more diverse and inclusive NYC. We will continue advocating for the voting rights of our community members,” said Woojung (Diana) Park, Immigrant Justice Organizer, MinKwon Center for Community Action.
“New Yorkers deserve a government that reflects and serves the needs of the people and that means full participation in our democracy by all of its residents, regardless of immigration status. That’s why we need to expand access to voting to include people who live here, pay taxes here, and otherwise contribute to this gorgeous mosaic called New York City,” said Karen Wharton, Democracy Coalition Coordinator, Citizen Action of New York. "A healthy democracy is one in which all people participate.”
“Chhaya CDC has been a proud member of the Our City Our Vote coalition for over a decade. We were very disappointed in 2022 when Intro. 1867 was struck down. Intro 1867 would have enfranchised a large number of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community members to vote in NYC municipal elections including the one taking place now. We look forward to seeing the full restoration of this law as soon as possible so that the voices of our community members can be heard,” said Annetta Seecharran, Executive Director, Chhaya CDC.
In December 2021, the New York City Council passed Local Law 11, which allows New York City residents who are otherwise qualified to register under New York State election law, to vote in municipal elections. Prior to the bill’s passage, nearly one million New York City residents could not vote in local elections due to their citizenship status, despite paying taxes and being invested in and contributing to the city.
In January 2022, a group of New York Republican voters, New York Republican officials, and members of the New York Republican State Committee and the Republican National Committee, filed a legal challenge seeking to subvert the will of the New York City Council and newly enfranchised New Yorkers. Prior to pushing for its passage, the New York Immigration Coalition, assisted by a pro-bono legal team, conducted a rigorous legal review of Intro 1867/Local Law 11 and found that the bill did not violate New York State’s electoral laws or its constitution.